The Martians in our Kitchen
"You want realism? I'll give you realism."
In 1953 War of the Worlds came out. Later they showed it on TV. It started way past my bedtime and there was no way on Earth or Mars that my mother was going to let me watch it. I went to bed at 8:30 as usual. But I didn't sleep.
I tossed and turned. Then from under my door I heard sounds of screams and the buzz of the Martian's death-ray. I heard about death-rays when watching Flash Gordon. Ming the Merciless had one. Death-rays were tuff. Death rays were hot. I wanted a death ray. Every kid on the block wanted a death ray. They were so much cooler than cap guns.
I snuck from my bed to the door and cracked it. I could see the TV from my angle just over my dad's stocking feet propped up on a recliner. There were the Martians with their beady little eyes. Oooh they looked scary! Little beady-eyed Martian monster fellows! All squiggly of body they were, and slimy as well. I hated and feared them. They made quite an impression. Their image would haunt me forever, I just knew it.
About two months later I was sleeping in my bunk bed. There was no one in the top bunk, just me in the bottom. Spoiled, that's what I was. Whining would get you anything if you did it enough. Even a bunk bed. You just had to be careful. In my house too much whining could get you slapped. The house had just been remodeled. My bedroom was turned into a kitchen, the house was topsy-turvy. I still wasn't use it to, especially at night.
It was summer and my parent's bedroom was upstairs. Now we had an upstairs. I woke up in the middle of the night. Not from a bad dream, probably from something I ate.
Half-asleep, I turned over and faced the door that opened into the kitchen. I was ready to drift back off when I noticed something. Something eerie. Two sets of sparkles across the kitchen were blinking at me like eyes.
There they were. Maybe they were eyes. They weren't too far from floor. Whoever was watching me was short. Short and watching. Then suddenly it hit me who they could be.
They were the beady-eyed Martians! Oh my God! Beady-eyed Martians were watching me while I slept. So I did what I did best when slimy beady-eyed Martians were watching me.
I began to sweat.
I froze and sweat at the same time. This went on for ages. Then I got up my nerve. I poked my hand from the covers. They kept watching. Every strange moment aflame with new threats and new thrills. Alien beady-eyes were blinking out there in the darkness.
Probably having trouble dealing with earth's atmosphere.'
That's what I figured.
I inched my hand out farther and onto the wall just below the light switch. It stuck there at first and didn't move. I knew if they caught me moving it would get their attention, so slowly, very slowly, one inch at a time, I crept up the wall. Kind of like The Beast With Five Fingers that I'd watched on Shock Theater last week, the one that strangled Peter Lorre at the end. It was a fear-charged journey into unknown realms of mystery, that's what it was.
Up I inched, closer and closer to the switch. Cold rivulets of sweat trickled down my face.
Finally I was there at the switch. Snap, it was on! A rectangle of light poured into the kitchen from my room to reveal...
Absolutely nothing! Absolutely nothing at all!
"Where are they?" I asked myself.
I got up and went in and looked around. Nothing.
There was nothing else to do but go back to sleep. I hopped back in bed, turned out the light and covered myself up and turned towards the wall. Then after a while, while trying to figure it out I had the strangest sensation. Someone was watching me. I turned over. Believe it or not the Martians were back. Clever slimy beady-eyed Martians anyway.
I occurred to me that anyone who could have a death-ray could probably make themselves invisible at will. So now I was in trouble. Should I make a mad dash up the stars to my parents room? What if there were more Martians up there and they'd taken my parents hostage? What then? Clever slimy beady-eyed Martians anyway! Always taking over the world. What could I do? I remembered what they said in the movie.
"Guns, tanks, bombs. They're like toys against them!"
Now I'm hearing noises too. But it's not Martians. It's my mom wakened from me mucking about in the kitchen. She's in her underwear and this whole thing is getting a little embarrassing.
"Steven, what's the matter?"
"There's Martians in the kitchen, Mom, that's what's the matter."
She gives me a look. I'd seen it before.
"Well, let's see," she says, and turns on the kitchen light. We both look around. Nothing.
"It's just your imagination," she tells me. "Now go back to sleep."
Ok, so I do, but as soon as she turns off the light there they are. The Martian blinking eyes.
"Hey Mom," I scream up the stairs, " They're back."
She comes back down but in crossing the kitchen she turns on the light. Nothing there. I explain my theory about their ability to turn invisible but she's having none of it. She's too practical for that and besides she's from Missouri the show me state. She has to be shown.
"OK she says, "let's see."
She turns off the light. Nothing from her angle but from mine, there they are.
She scoots down and sees. She walks into the kitchen. She follows the angles and figures it out. My Mom was always good at figuring things out.
"Come here," she says. I come there.
"She these?" she says, pointing at the pilot lights on the stove. "They flicker when the wind comes in through the window. You can see them through the crack between the stove top and the counter."
I nod my foolish kid-head up and down. She tucks me back in bed and and returns upstairs and I can barely hear my father trying to muffle his laughter.
The thing is, after that I had the Martians any time I wanted them. I could turn over and see them in the kitchen. Little beady-eyed Martians anyway. My little Martian friends were always watching my back. Sometimes I miss them.
Never let you kids watch War of the Worlds. That's my advice to you.